CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte City Council narrowly approved a $50 million grant from the federal government for the Republican National Convention. Opponents of the measure questioned whether the convention would even happen while proponents wondered why the city should have to pay for it if it does.
The federal grant will help pay for local law enforcement needs and cyber security. The largest chunk of the money would go to insurance for property.
The debate over whether to accept the grant was quickly turned into a debate over whether to host the RNC by Councilmember Braxton Winston. Winston said it’s unlikely large gatherings would be allowed by late August when the RNC comes to town and people who think there would be have the wool pulled over their eyes.
“We need to stop this charade right now,” Winston said.
Winston argued that city staff and resources should stop being used on the RNC.
“We know, we know that it’s not going to happen,” Winston said.
But a majority of other councilmembers said the debate wasn’t about hosting the RNC but making sure the city didn’t pay for it.
“We have a fiscal responsibility to the city that if this thing comes here in some form that we shouldn’t have to pay to keep our city safe,” Mayor Pro-Tem Julie Eiselt said.
City Attorney Patrick Baker made it clear that a “no” vote on the grant wouldn’t do anything to dissuade the RNC from coming to the Queen City. The city would still be contractually obligated to host the event.
Most of the councilmembers speculated that the RNC would not bring the crowds and business that was once expected. An estimated 50,000 people were estimated to come to Charlotte for the RNC but councilmember Malcolm Graham all but guaranteed not that many people would come.
Baker also noted that if the state has any rules in place limiting gatherings during the convention the Republican Nationall Committee would be obligated to follow those guidelines per the term of the contract.
Ultimately Councilmembers Braxton Winston, Dimple Ajmera, Matt Newton, Victoria Watlington and Renee Johnson voted against the grant.
City council unanimously passed an ordinance to change the procedures of the permitting process for the RNC, similar to what was done for the DNC in 2012.
Instead of a first come, first serve method the city will likely implement a lottery system to prevent any one group from grabbing hold of all the public space for protests, parades and other First Amendment activities.